"Pixar of South Africa" Unveils Film, TV Projects

Courtesy of Triggerfish Animation Studios
'Khumba' is one of Triggerfish's two global success stories.

Triggerfish Animation Studios earlier this year launched its Story Lab with support from the Walt Disney Co. to find African stories and storytellers.

Triggerfish Animation Studios, known as "the Pixar of South Africa," has selected four feature film and four TV series projects for development from its Triggerfish Story Lab.

It established the lab earlier this year with the support of The Department of Trade and Industry and The Walt Disney Co. to find new African stories and storytellers.

The feature films selected into the Story Lab are The Camel Racer from Wanuri Kahiu and Nnedi Okorafor (Kenya/Nigeria), Dropped from Ian Tucker, Lights from Kay Carmichael and The Wild Waste from Naseem Hoosen (all South Africa).

The TV series selected are KC’s Super 4 from Malenga Mulendema (Zambia), Mike Scott's Bru and Boegie, Ninja Princess from Marc Dey and Kelly Dillon and Wormholes from Lucy Heavens (all South Africa).

Okorafor is a Nigerian-American World Fantasy Award-winning novelist; Kahiu is a Kenyan director; Scott is a South African YouTube star; and Heavens is one of the writers on South African animated TV hit Supa Strikas.

Triggerfish had planned to select three projects for film and TV, respectively, but increased that to four each, citing "the quality of the projects."

"From misfit Zambian girls who become low-budget superhero-superspies to a stubborn 12-year-old Kenyan girl who defies tradition by racing camels, from a young South African scientist who accidentally turns her annoying little sister into a new source of electricity to a timid lemming who must defy his nature, these are characters we fell in love with," said Anthony Silverston, head of development at Triggerfish. "We’re excited by the range of stories that explore everything from contemporary urban to Afro-futuristic worlds. We’re looking forward to bringing something fresh to the screen."

The Story Lab received a 1,378 entries from 30 African countries. Triggerfish then shortlisted 23 film and 14 TV ideas, which were developed over a two-week intensive workshop in Cape Town in November.

The ideas were then evaluated by an expert panel that included Peter Lord, the British director of Chicken Run and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, Hollywood writers Kiel Murray (Cars) and Jonathan Roberts (The Lion King) and development executives from both the London and the Los Angeles offices of Walt Disney, along with South African comedian David Kau, screenwriter Paul Ian Johnson and Triggerfish’s development team of Silverston, Wayne Thornley and Raffaella Delle Donne.

"Story Lab exceeded our expectations at every turn, from the number of entries to the quality of the projects to the way they improved dramatically during the two-week intensive," said Triggerfish CEO Stuart Forrest. "Narrowing it down to eight projects was difficult enough; narrowing it down to six would have been almost impossible."

The selected storytellers will start the new year with a two-week immersion trip to Disney’s headquarters in Burbank, where they will receive mentoring from key studio and TV executives.

Triggerfish will be investing up to $2.8 million over the next three years in the Story Lab. The development process can take a number of years. For each phase of development, Triggerfish will provide financial support, workspace and expert guidance by internal and international consultants and mentors. It has been working with William Morris Endeavor.

Triggerfish has had international success with Adventures in Zambezia and Khumba, which were distributed in more than 150 countries and dubbed into over 27 languages.

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